Sherpa Culture

Sherpa culture is based on a clan system called ru, and true Sherpa heritage is determined by patrilineage. Sherpas belong to one of 18 clans and have clan names. Their culture is different from other ethnic groups in Nepal, including Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, and is based on a mixture of Buddhism and animism.

Nepal, a diverse country, boasts around 125 different ethnic groups and 123 distinct languages. To showcase these rich cultures, I’ve decided to highlight a different ethnicity each week. This week, it’s the Sherpas! Hold up, isn’t a Sherpa a mountain guide? That’s what I thought too, when I first arrived in Nepal. But contrary to popular belief, Sherpa is actually an ethnic group – one that many of my Nepali friends belong to. Luckily, they’ve been kind enough to share their knowledge of Sherpa culture with me!

Origin

The word “Sherpa” literally translates to “people from the east“. They are believed to have migrated from the Everest region, possibly even further east from Tibet and Mongolia. While Tengboche, a popular stop on the Everest Base Camp Trek, boasts a magnificent monastery, the title of “oldest Sherpa village” actually belongs to Pangboche.

Language of Sherpa People

Sherpas traditionally speak Sherpa, a language with roots in Tibetan dialects. While most Sherpas today are also multilingual in Nepali and English, Standard Tibetan speakers wouldn’t necessarily understand Sherpa due to centuries of independent development and geographical separation. Notably, Sherpa is primarily a spoken language, with efforts ongoing to establish a written form based on the Tibetan script.

Religion

Sherpa people are deeply connected to Tibetan Buddhism. Their faith permeates every aspect of life in the Everest Region. Majestic monasteries, like Tengboche with its iconic view of Ama Dablam, stand as testaments to their devotion. Mani walls, each inscribed with the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum,” serve as constant reminders of their spiritual beliefs. These sights and sounds offer a glimpse into the unique cultural tapestry woven by the Sherpas.

What percent of Nepali people are Sherpa?

Sherpas are one of the most well-known ethnic groups in Nepal, despite constituting only around 0.45% of the population according to the 2021 Nepal census.

Most Sherpa live within

The Sherpa community primarily resides in the Solu-Khumbu district, encompassing the Everest Region high in the Himalayas. Other notable areas include Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, Dolakha, Rolwaling, and Helambu. While traditionally known for inhabiting these mountainous regions, Sherpas can now be found throughout Nepal. Their reputation for exceptional mountaineering skills has led them to be sought-after guides in other countries, and some even teach at mountaineering schools around the world.

Sherpas famous for

It’s no surprise that Sherpas are renowned for their mountaineering prowess. When Western explorers first ventured into the Himalayas, they sought the help of local people to navigate the treacherous terrain. The Sherpas, who have inhabited these mountains for generations, possessed an innate ability to navigate the unforgiving landscape. Their high-altitude lifestyle also granted them a natural acclimatization to the thin air. This unique skillset, coupled with the allure of financial opportunities, led them to become highly sought-after mountain guides.

Sherpa: mountain guides

Most people will recognize the name Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa mountaineer, who famously summited Everest alongside Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Pasang Lhamu Sherpa etched her name in history as the first female Sherpa to conquer the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.

What Sherpa food should everyone try?

Sherpa cuisine offers a variety of dishes that are both delicious and well-suited to the mountainous environment. Here are a few must-tries:

  • Tsampa: The aforementioned roasted barley flour dish, a Sherpa staple.
  • Sherpa Momo: Steamed dumplings filled with meat or vegetables, a popular food in Nepal with a unique Sherpa twist.
  • Shyakpa (Sherpa Stew): A hearty and flavorful stew made with vegetables, meat, and sometimes potatoes.
  • Thukpa: A comforting noodle soup perfect for chilly mountain evenings. Variations include vegetable thukpa and meat thukpa.

These are just a few examples, and depending on where you travel in Nepal, you might discover other regional specialties.

Festivals belong to the Sherpa culture

Losar

Losar, the Sherpa New Year, is a vibrant celebration marking a time of renewal and fresh beginnings. Following the Tibetan calendar, Sherpas usher in the New Year in February, separate from the celebrations of the wider world and even Nepal itself. Imagine the joy of potentially celebrating three New Year in a year! Losar festivities typically last 15 days and involve a focus on family traditions. Homes are cleaned, prayers are offered for good fortune, and joyous celebrations erupt with singing, dancing, feasting, and even archery contests.

Mani Rimdu

Mani Rimdu is a spectacular 19-day festival typically held in October or November. While the majority of the celebrations are observed privately within families, the last three days culminate in a public spectacle. If you find yourself trekking through the Everest Base Camp region during this time, you might be lucky enough to witness the famed masked dances performed at Tengboche Monastery. These vibrant dances are believed to ward off evil spirits and usher in blessings for the coming year.

Sherpa’s music sounds like

I remember trekking through the Himalayas, and my guide was playing beautiful music through a Bluetooth speaker. Captivated by the melodies, I inquired about each song, only to be told they were simply “Sherpa songs“. With the thin air affecting my thinking, I foolishly neglected to ask for their names! However, my friends have recommended these specific songs to get a taste of Sherpa music:

Best way to experience Sherpa culture as a tourist

Trekking with a Sherpa Guide:

The most immersive way to experience Sherpa culture is undoubtedly through a trek in the Khumbu (Everest) Region. Here, you can hire a Sherpa guide who will not only navigate the breathtaking Himalayan terrain but also act as a cultural bridge. Don’t hesitate to ask questions! Sherpa guides are a wealth of knowledge about their traditions, way of life, and the unique ecosystem of the Himalayas.

Staying in Sherpa Teahouses:

Opting to stay in Sherpa teahouses instead of luxury lodges adds another layer of cultural immersion. These traditional guesthouses, often family-run, offer a glimpse into Sherpa hospitality and daily life. Get to know the owners, chat with them about their customs, and savor delicious Sherpa cuisine prepared with fresh, local ingredients.

Sherpa Friendliness:

Sherpas are renowned for their warmth and welcoming nature. They have a long history of interacting with travelers and are genuinely happy to share their culture with those who show respect and interest. Remember, a simple “Namaste” (a traditional Nepali greeting) and a curious mind can go a long way in fostering meaningful connections.

Also, read Beginner’s Guide to 100+ Essential Nepali Words for Tourists

Who are the most celebrated Sherpas?

The Sherpa community is renowned for its humility and selflessness. Their focus isn’t on personal recognition but on the task at hand. However, their extraordinary achievements on mountains like Everest are simply too impressive to ignore.

  • Tenzing Norgay: A legend in mountaineering, Tenzing Norgay was one of the first two climbers to summit Mount Everest, alongside Edmund Hillary in 1953. He’s revered as a national hero in both Nepal and India.
  • Lhakpa Sherpa: A pioneer for women in mountaineering, Lhakpa Sherpa holds the record for the most Everest summits by a woman. Her incredible determination led her to conquer the peak an astonishing ten times.
  • Apa Sherpa: Nicknamed “Super Sherpa,” Apa Sherpa holds the undisputed record for the most Everest summits – a staggering 21 times! His skill and experience are legendary.

These are just a few examples. Many other Sherpas deserve recognition for their remarkable accomplishments and contributions to Himalayan exploration.


Discover more from Nepal Travel Vibes

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

NTVs

We try our best to assist you throughout the narrow roads of the city or frosting cold in the Himalayas. Sharing has always been a great way to take care of our visitors.

Similar Posts
Latest Posts from Nepal Travel Vibes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *